3+ Languages In Norway: An Easy Guide

October 12, 2021

Do you think the Norwegians only speak the Norwegian language or do you think there are other languages in Norway? Let's find out in this exclusive guide we have here for you today!

Norway, the Land of the Midnight Sun is a country famous for Vikings, the Nothern Light, folklore, and also its natural phenomena. There is another thing Norway is famous for... the language! Learning the country's official language is an important process if you wish to relocate. I personally would love to stay in Norway for a while after finding that the young people in Norway are thriving economically (in other words, young and rich).

In this post, I would like to share with you the uniqueness of the languages in Norway.

Official Languages In Norway

Languages In Norway

In simple terms, Norwegian speak Norwegian as their native language and it is the most widely spoken language in Norway- 95% of the population in Norway speaks Norwegian as their first language Norwegian is also classified as one of their official languages. but that's not the whole story.

Okay, let's focus on Norwegian. The Norwegian language comes from the North Germanic branch from the Germanic languages. It is closely connected to the Swedish language and Danish language. They are all part of the Old Norse linguistic descendants and uses the Latin alphabet system.

However, the Norwegian language has not just one written language, but two. The official written standard for Norweigian is Bokmål and Nynorsk. Both of these written Norwegian languages are taught in school.

The Norwegian language struggle is a real thing, they even have a Norwegian name for it: Språkstriden. Let me try to simplify the whole thing: Danish used to be the standard written language for the Old Norwegian language (from 1536 to 1814). It was due to the long history of Danish ruling Norway for 400 years and causing the Danish language to replace the language of the upper-classes and also in official business.

The use of Norwegian spelling in the Danish language causes Riksmål to be born, the written standard for Norwegian that later was renamed Bokmål.

Nynorsk

Nynorsk was formerly known as Landsmål, a language spoken natively by the rural people of Norway- the opposite of the Danish-influenced Norwegian spoken in the upper class. Nynorsk also means New Norwegian.

It was officially acknowledged in 1929 and has been used alongside Bokmål as an official language.

However, its significance was reduced greatly and no longer spoken in Norway by the majority. Instead, it is taught in school as a written language. Only 7.4% of Norway's population actually uses Nynorsk in its original form nowadays, and 5% of the whole population code-switches between Bokmål and Nynorsk.

Bokmål

In simple terms, when people talk about the Norwegian language (at least without specifying which written form is used), they usually mean Norwegian Bokmål (the word 'book language' in Norwegian). It is the written language used by the majority of the people of Norway- about 80% to 90% of the whole population. As mentioned above, it is heavily based on Riksmål, but with differences in gender terms, lexicon, counting system, and other linguistic aspects. The change from Riksmål to Bokmål was official in 1929.

Sami Languages

The Sami people are native to Northern Scandinavia, and while they have mostly adopted Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, or Russian as their mother tongues (due to official assimilation initiatives), some still speak their native Sami languages. The Sami languages belong to the Uralic language family, alongside Kven and Finnish. The most widely used spoken form of Sami is the North Sami language in Norway (spoken by around 15,000 Norwegian Sami).

Some other Sami languages found in Norway:

  1. Lule Sami (spoken by roughly 500 in Norway)
  2. Pite Sami (almost extinct)
  3. South Sami are the others (which has around 300 speakers in Norway).

Now, Sami is protected by the constitution, especially it is officially labeled as one of the official languages.

Kven Language

Kvens or the Kven people are a Balto-Finnic ethnic minority in Norway. Their close relation to Finnic is also why the Kven language is a Finnic language closely related to the Finnish language. It is spoken in Norway by 5000 to 8000 people, most of them in northeastern Norway (in Tromsø, to be specific).

Some people regard Kven as a dialect of Finnish since native speakers of Kven and Finnish can understand each other perfectly well- which means it has high mutual intelligibility.

Romani

The Romani people are actually descendants of traveling people from India, and they are widely spread all over Europe. It is one of the Minority languages in Norway.

The language was split into many dialects including two very prominent ones: Tavringer Romani and Vlax Romani. These dialects were spoken in Norway by 6000 and 500 people respectively.

Other Languages

The most popular foreign language of Norway is English as it is widely taught in school. Thus, nearly 90% of the Norwegian population can speak English fluently.

Official LanguagesMinority LanguagesForeign Languages
Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk)Kven FinnishSerbo-Croatian
SamiRomaniArabic
 RomaneseEnglish
  Somali
  Kurdish
  Tigrinya
  Dari
  Russian
  Persian
  Albanian

Want To Learn So Many Languages?

Languages in Norway

Did you enjoy learning about all these interesting languages? I personally am fascinated by the fact that one language can have two different writing systems, the same as the Malay language. Now if you enjoyed this post and would like to get more interesting language tips for over 60+ foreign languages, then we highly recommend that you check out our language tips post here.

If you want to learn standard Norwegian, you can immediately start now by downloading Ling App. Learning Norwegian can be easy if just follow the steps given to you by Ling App. It can help you with your pronunciation, Norwegian words and vocab, common phrases, and many more.

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